May Jeong’s Friday feature on Afghanistan for Politico opens with a telling vignette of the scene in Kabul’s U.S. Embassy on Election Day 2016, mid-day in the far-off Afghan capital.
“The basement was dominated by State Department employees, who are officially barred from political activism while living abroad but tend to support Democrats,” Jeong relates. “[S]ome, anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, were even calling the occasion a party. On the wall hung a Donald Trump piñata.”
Jeong describes the party crowd as “American expatriates, Afghan elites and others who had managed to scare up invitations.”
As at countless liberal campus haunts, mainstream newsrooms, and coastal elite fêtes across the United States, a darkness spread across the room as it became clear that “this future president,” as Hillary had recently anointed herself on Twitter, would almost certainly never be. Jeong writes:
By midmorning Kabul time, however, Trump had taken a commanding lead, and the mood in the embassy basement began to shift. Ties came undone, breakfast Danishes were anxiously devoured, and under the red, white and blue bunting, a stunned silence settled in. The cover band that had been playing earlier packed up its instruments. Some of the diplomats were typing furiously on their BlackBerrys.
Still, there were apparently some Trump supporters in the Kabul Embassy that day – not among the State Department career staff, but American military personnel and veterans. As Jeong describes, “Others stepped outside to smoke, leaving behind a more Trump-friendly crowd of uniformed soldiers and veterans who had returned to Afghanistan as private contractors.”
The reaction of Jeong’s article’s subject, 62-year-old American Scott Guggenheim, one of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s top advisors, is harder to fit into one category or the other. While he was undoubtedly opposed to Trump taking the reins in his birth country, he was less upset than some of the State Department crowd when it came to the likely effect on Afghanistan.
“For Afghanistan, it’s not such a bad thing. But for the United States, it’s a disaster,” he later recalled of his thoughts that day.
Read the rest of Politico’s feature on Guggenheim here.